Happy Beans, published by graffeg

Plant-based recipe book for the healthy, hearty eater published 17 September

When people cook, they cook for love. Some because they love to cook, but most because they want to create food for someone that will be appreciated and bring pleasure. Such was the case with Jane Reynolds. Faced with a customer in her pub who wanted to eat a vegan diet, she set out to create a dish that not only fulfilled the brief of a plant-based menu but which would also prove appetising to the rest of her clientele. No-one in Mrs. Reynold’s kitchen was going to be left behind – and so Happy Beans was born.

Happy Beans brings together the desire to eat a more plant-based diet with the wholesome, hearty imagery associated with traditional farmhouse cookery. Created in an actual farmhouse kitchen in Pembrokeshire this collection of recipes dispenses with the myth that a vegan diet is one of frugality and limited choice. Instead it promotes the idea that to eat vegan is to eat well, both in terms of health but also in terms of flavour and substance.

Jane says: ‘I don’t want to make my dishes taste like or look like meat, I want them to be a celebration of the vegetable. Each new dish elates me, and I feel that people who were previously marginalised, now have far more choice’.

Look inside:

Recipes include:

  • Peanut Butter, Jalapeño & Gin Jam Sandwich
  • Tempura Okra with Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce (pictured right)
  • Georgian Woodland Mushroom Pasties
  • Linguini Mor Gwyrdd
  • Jaffa Cakes
  • Banana & Walnut Loaf with Butterscotch Sauce
  • Fat Hen Pesto
Jane Reynolds

‘The recipes are influenced by Jane’s farming heritage, ‘having been brought up on a farm, where people worked physically hard all day, providing a varied, nutritious and hearty meal was of great importance, so I think that has influenced some of my other creations such as the curried potato stuffed rolls, beetroot and sweet potato pasties and whisky marmalade bread and butter pudding.’, says Jane.

Living in Pembrokeshire means Jane has also been influenced by the sea and its produce, in recipes such as Linguine Môr Gwyrdd, Phish Pie and Thai Fab Cakes. Jane also loves using freshly foraged plant-food in her recipes, adding, ‘foraging was always part of my life. My grandmother had been brought up in times of great austerity and nothing went to waste. One of my earliest memories of her was picking wild strawberries on a walk at Black Tar where she lived.’

Happy Beans contains over 40 family-friendly, hearty, plant-based meals and snacks covering starters, soups, salads, pasties, pastas, pies, crumbles, breads, sauces, chutneys and more. Each dish represents the delicious possibilities of plant-based cooking for new or experimenting vegans, as well as for anyone eager to change up their weekly menu.

Tempura okra, happy beans, published by graffeg

Happy Beans: Plant-based recipes

Written by Jane Reynolds. Photography by Huw Jones.
Publication 17 September / ISBN 9781913134273 / Hardback / 160 pages / 150 x 150mm / RRP: £9.99

Q & A with Jane Reynolds

Q: When did you start cooking your own recipes?
Jane: I started cooking from a very young age, and knew that I had a deep fascination for ingredients and how they could be transformed into delicious meals. My paternal grandmother was always cooking and was always happy to let me help her. To me she seemed like a magician.

Q: Have you cooked for others professionally?
Jane: I started my career as a chef when I was 18, I worked at The Manor House Hotel ,Castle Combe in Wiltshire for 3 years. Missing home,I returned to Pembrokeshire where I have worked at many hotels, restaurants and pubs,and have run my own pub and café.

Q: Why did you start to make vegan dishes?
Jane: For most of my career in catering, vegetarians,let alone vegans were largely ignored. I knew there were great gaps in my knowledge and my curiosity became alive with possible dishes.
I think everyone has the right to choose what they eat for whatever their reasons, whether it be environmental, ethical or for health benefits. The challenge of thinking outside the box, of extending my knowledge and creating new dishes that were delicious for vegans and non vegans alike, is what lit my bonfire! I don’t want to make my dishes taste like or look like meat, I want them to be a celebration of the vegetable. Each new dish elates me, and I feel that people who were previously marginalised, now have far more choice.

Q: What were some of your early vegan dishes?
Jane: Probably my earliest would have been unintentional! Nettle soup, for example. When I ran my own pub in the early 90s, I had a customer who was vegan, and I really had no idea what to give them. I ended up making a vegetable risotto which was well received. I think that moment may have been the catalyst for my fascination.

Happy Beans published by Graffeg

Q: Where do you source your ingredients?
Jane: Everywhere! I like growing some of my own. I shop in supermarkets, farmer’s markets,local shops, farm shops, roadside stalls, online and anywhere else that sells food!!

Q: Do you take inspiration from where you live and what role does foraging for ingredients have in your cooking?
Jane: Living in Pembrokeshire, both the land and sea influence me greatly. Dishes such as linguine môr gwyrdd, phish pie and Thai fab cakes are all inspired by the seaside.
Having been brought up on a farm, where people worked physically hard all day, providing a varied, nutritious and hearty meal was of great importance, so I think that has influenced some of my other creations such as the curried potato stuffed rolls,beetroot and sweet potato pasties and whisky marmalade bread and butter pudding. Foraging was always part of my life, who doesn’t love free food? My grandmother had been brought up in times of great austerity and nothing went to waste. One of my earliest memories of her was picking wild strawberries on a walk at Black Tar where she lived.

Q: What do you find enjoyable about cooking for others?
Jane: I didn’t really enjoy school, and I was not at all academic, but I did always find great pleasure in cooking. Cooking was an escape, I daydreamed my whole school life away thinking about food. As I became more practiced, I became more experimental and I noticed that people were enjoying what I was doing. That brought me a great sense of achievement that had seemed unattainable in school. Today, I love sharing food with family and friends, it’s a time when it’s easy to talk, share ideas and thoughts.

Q: How easy and accessible do you think your recipes are for new or amateur vegans?
Jane: I would like to think that they are all easily accessible, and some really are very simple. Some of the ingredients may be unavailable in all but the bigger supermarkets, but can all be found online.
New or amateur vegans are the people I would most like to inspire and share my enthusiasm for exploration with.

Jane Reynolds

Q: How long do these recipes usually take to make?
Jane: They often just start with a certain ingredient catching my eye or awakening some curiosity in me. Sometimes ideas of how to use them will immediately spring to mind, other times it takes a little longer, either way, I enjoy the process!

Q: How long does it take you to come up with new vegan recipes?
Jane: I find most of my day is taken up with thinking about new recipes, so it doesn’t take long to come up with the idea, but sometimes I need to make a dish several times before I’m happy that it fits all the criteria.

Q: Do you think that not being vegan yourself helps you when creating new flavours in your recipes?
Jane: In a way, I think it does, because if I can make something where I really don’t miss meat, fish or dairy, I feel I have succeeded. Often the success of dishes is not just about flavour, texture, nutrition and aesthetic appeal also play an important part.

Q: What is one of your favourite recipes that you’ve included in this book?
Jane: It’s hard to pick just one. But my three course meal from the book would be tempura okra with sweet chilli dip,linguine môr gwyrdd followed by banana and walnut cake with butterscotch sauce. But it’s a hard choice!!

Q: How often do you cook vegan food at home?
Jane: These days, very often, as I try all my recipes out on my family!

Q: Why do you think that veganism has become so popular in recent years?
Jane: I think there are many reasons ranging from ethical, ecological and for health benefits, also the range of ingredients and the knowledge of how to use them has made it more accessible.
In the past, there was a stigma to veganism and some very bad press, but it has become far more mainstream, and vast numbers of people have become interested in the possibilities available to them, even if they don’t want to commit to full time veganism.

Q: What is your go-to ingredient when you’re experimenting with new recipes?
Jane: Chillies,garlic and ginger just go together.

Q: Do you think the ingredients in your book are easy to come by/affordable?
Jane: Most of them are affordable and fairly common place these days, but some are quite unusual, for example, banana blossom which I have only found online.

Q: Because you are so used to making vegan food, does it make you more conscious of what food you are eating normally?
Jane: Growing up on the farm, the importance of good animal husbandry was always impressed upon me by my father. The animals in his care were always well fed and kept in immaculate conditions, and there was no compromise in his welfare standards. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, particularly in factory farming, so I always try to ensure that the food that I buy has traceability and is ethically farmed. Also, since writing the book, and having tested so many recipes, I have found that I actually really do like vegan food!

Q: Do you think that your book will be helpful for people who are considering veganism?
Jane: I don’t think anybody should feel any sense of failure if they are only part time vegans, many people just want to reduce their intake of meat and dairy, and I’d really like to think that those people would find some inspiration in my book. I think it’s all about personal choice, and nobody should be vilified by what they choose to, or not to eat.

Q: Will you consider writing another vegan cookbook in the future?
Jane: Yes, definitely! I already have a few in the pipeline!